Life is about learning and oh, is there so much to learn. During my time as the site manager at Forest Lodge, Northland College’s satellite campus, I facilitated environmental based programs at the Lodge, nestled in the deep heart of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Owned by the U.S. Forest Service and operated by Northland, Forest Lodge is a historic private estate donated to the American public in 1999. Visitors can explore twelve historic buildings, 872 acres of property, and attend a myriad of environmental programming, from studying lichens, tracking wolves, or stretching their souls at yoga retreats.
There were many different hats to wear at Forest Lodge, but none I enjoyed more than working directly with the people who came there. I led tours of the historic grounds and welcomed public and private groups that rented the buildings. I listened to high schoolers, eyes still blurry with lack of sleep, regale their experience of howling for wolves at midnight. I hooted for barred owls and saw kids’ and adults’ eyes light up when our calls were answered. Visitors peppered me with questions about the Burke family, Fairyland, and wildlife at Forest Lodge, and I was always delighted when they stump me.
Of course, I spent so much time around education that I picked up a few bits myself – did you know that a chickadee’s memory centers grow larger as the winter approaches, to keep all of its caches memorized? Or the easiest way to identify wolves and coyotes from afar is by the length of their tails? I know that lichens are an excellent way to check air quality and that otters travel across snow by sliding on their bellies.
Last winter, my partner and I tracked such an otter’s trail up and down hills, through the hemlocks of Fairyland and the quite dells beyond. In the summers, my favorite place was at the boathouse and I often swam through Lake Namekagon’s ripples, or sailed across its busy channels. The bench above the water was a favorite spot for sunset viewing, when the classes were done for the day and our visitors were searching for a place to just be.
Forest Lodge is the perfect venue to host such a wide variety of programs, and I’m happy to have been in the nucleus of it all. There has been an expansion in rentals and other usage, and so I played host to a number of weddings, family reunions and even ski weekends. Forest Lodge is constantly update the facilities and renovate the buildings with their know-how and passion.
What can I say? There is a lot going on down at Forest Lodge, and there is always a new, exciting opportunity on the horizon. Our lives are filled with learning and I’m glad to have had such a large part in it.
Sarah Szymaniak’s last day as site manager at Forest Lodge was November 15 and has taken a position with the city of Ashland.